Stained Glass

Hanging on a wall in my bedroom is a square of glass. Its a stained glass scene of a sun peeking through the mountain tops as it rises for the day. My grandfather made that stained glass scene, using pieces of colored glass that was left over from the squares that are part of the windowed feature wall at my grandparents’ summer home. The jewel colored glass themselves are from France, ordered by my mother who had once worked at the glass factory they were made. Both my grandfather and my mother have passed, him when my son was small, my mother when I was.

My grandmother, who just celebrated her 101st birthday, advised me to take a few pieces from the home she’d spent summers in my entire life. When she suggested that I do so, I thanked her, then left the room. I had to compose myself.

It was then that I realized what that house has meant to me, and that my visits to that beautiful mountaintop location would soon be coming to an end. All that would be left were memories, photographs and a few momentoes. No longer would I enjoy the long tree shaded driveway, or the view off the back deck. No longer would I sit at the piano, where my grandmother corrected my fingering. No longer would I drink water from the tap in her kitchen, water that tasted different than any water elsewhere.

I will have to cherish the memories of climbing the spiral staircase on summer mornings as my grandmother sang “good morning to you” in a loud cheerful voice. Then the kids in residence would sit at the counter and eat bowls of corn flakes, with fresh cut peaches. We’d listen to the little coffee pot percolating nearby as we’d plan out our grand adventures for the day.

My grandparents often took us to a small farm they owned for a while, and watch my grandfather call the cows to the barn. This would be after we’d arranged the rocks at the creek for the hundredth time was we hiked the familiar trail to the Toe River. The ride back in a Jeep, would always have us sharing space with a basket of fresh corn and green beans for that night’s supper.

We were taken to a local arts school where we were able to watch potters, weavers and glass blowers plying their craft. Many of the artistic pieces that have graced the mountain top home have been acquired from the talented local artist that live in that part of Western North Carolina. Trips to local parks, hiking trails, waterfalls, and of course the small lake built for the community to enjoy were always a part of our summers growing up. Even after I was grown, with children of my own, that tradition of visits to the scenes, sights and arts of the area were on the agenda, for a new generation of grandchildren.

Every evening we’d gather back, and share dinner, always started by a short verse of grace by my grandmother. Then we’d eat, laugh and share stories, while remembering to keep our elbows off the table, a hard and fast rule at Mamaw’s table. After dinner were games of cards, or charades, or skits we made up on the spot. Sometimes a craft project was brought out and we’d spend time together finishing it. My grandmother was a master seamstress and a world class knitter. She still knits almost daily, even though her eyesight is failing. Her inability to teach a clumsy fingered left handed girl how to crochet or knit has been one of her few failures in life.

The house represents a few sad memories as well. Downstairs in the cool basement bedroom with two chenille covered twin beds, is where my dad told my brothers and I that our mother had passed away after a brief illness. I remember crying, while one brother sat next to me, and the baby brother sat in my dad’s arms. I have never been able to walk into that room without remembering that moment, so long ago. The living room is where my family learned of my decision to leave my abusive husband. It was a hard thing to do, as I told them of my decision and why through the tears that wouldn’t stop falling. The outpouring of love by everyone in the room, helped me grant courage to face the following year.

The front yard, is where my grandmother, stared daggers into my soon to be current husband, as she told him to be good to me. He fell instantly in adoration of her at that moment. The same yard is were we always gather to hug everyone good bye.

Two years ago, Mamaw had a pacemaker installed. Her heart has started its long slow dissent to its last beat. After the pacemaker was installed, Gary and I took a weekend to spend with her. I took along a camera and began recording memories of the house, each photograph intended to preserve what I knew would be gone from my life when she was. On our last visit, she told me to take a few things back home with me. She knew, as I did, that each visit could be my last. She has intended to let us have the pieces that mean much to us to be with us as reminders of such a beautiful place. The stained glass art piece made so beautifully by my retired surgeon grandfather is such a piece, along with a cast metal cat they picked up in Egypt during one of their excursions abroad, a pottery cup from a local artist, and a sapphire blue bowl, that may also be an art deco style ashtray. It once sat on a window ledge that looked out to the mountain view.

In the not too distant future, the mountaintop chalet will go to new owners. The thought of never again getting to drive up the tree shaded drive anticipating the house coming into view saddens me, but not as much as knowing that its anticipated occupant will not be there as well. I am grateful for that house, and the love that poured out of every window and onto every single person that stepped foot on the property. A small stained glass scene, hanging in our bedroom, will remind me of that love for the rest of my life, and remind me to do all I can to ensure that Gary and I’s home exudes love as well.

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